KBPIP execsJose Ramon D. Olives
, chief strategic officer of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI), is also known as the “father of TFC
(The Filipino Channel).”
Based in San Francisco as director for international ventures from 1992 until 2001, he oversaw the birth and growing pains of TFC in North America and the Middle East as it began distribution and sought recognition as an ethnic channel for overseas Filipinos. Now on his 25th year as a Kapamilya, Olives actually started out in ABS-CBN as a production assistant with the Public Affairs group in 1987. He became on-air manager in 1990 and then came the overseas assignment for TFC, when he was made director, international ventures. “They actually didn’t know what to call it then,” quips Olives.
In 2001, he returned to Manila and headed business development under the office of ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III (EL3). He was assigned to head the Cable Channels and Print Media Group in 2007 until he went on sabbatical in 2009. “It was a soul-searching period,” says Olives of his three month break from network activities.
When he came back from sabbatical, ABS-CBN was in the process of retooling its public service offerings. And when typhoon Ondoy struck and the network went full force into helping disaster victims, ABS-CBN president Charo Santos-Concio requested Olives to help organize and support the artists and talents, who wanted to join Sagip Kapamilya
Seconded to AFI
“At about the same time, Gina (AFI managing director Gina Lopez or GL) had already started KBPIP (Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig)
. And like everything else she (GL) does, you just get sucked into this hole,” recalls Olives, who was eventually seconded to AFI after 23 years of corporate work.
He likes to quip that now he has experienced working for the “father (the late ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez Jr.), the son (EL3) and the holy spirit (GL).” He candidly admits that 23 years of working for ABSCBN corporate could not prepare him for working for AFI, particularly Gina Lopez, “who always thinks big, never small” and is known for her very passionate and intense social advocacies.
“I am quite lucky that ABS-CBN is an organization that embraces the concept of social responsibility, and is able to find places where people’s skills can best be used. I believe in what (ELJ) said that public service is good business. I now have the opportunity to use the skills I developed over 23 years with the station to professionalize the foundation and make it sustainable,” says Olives. Privileged position
For her part, managing director GL is directly involved with KBIP and the anti-mining advocacy. Now chairman of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, GL finds herself in a privileged position to “marry the strengths of government and the private sector” to fulfill the common cause of cleaning the Pasig River, but more than that, to renew the city of Manila and its environs by changing people’s attitudes and views toward themselves, their lifestyles and the river itself.
“It is much easier to raise funds from the private sector, because although the government has money, you have to deal with bureaucracy. It is such blessing that the President has an amazing Cabinet. And this is why I believe we can do it (clean the Pasig River) within the sevenyear plan (until 2016),” GL says. ‘Reflection of our beauty as a people’
She adds, “Ultimately, we want people to care for the river enough to keep it beautiful. We want them to appreciate the beauty of the river as a reflection of our beauty as a people and as a nation. Last year, we broke the Guinness record because 116,000 people cared enough to run for the river. This year, we want to break the record again, because breaking the record would mean you’re the best. Will that not make us proud as a people? That will feed into our psyche and lead to further caring to make the river clean and beautiful.”
As for the pro-mining advocates who have taken what she feels are unjust digs at the Lopez family because of her strong anti-mining stance, GL clarifies that there is “absolutely no conflict” between her advocacy and the Lopez Group’s business practices.
“There is no such thing as responsible mining in an island ecosystem because the corals, the groves, the reefs are all irreplaceable. Once you mine, you damage the environment. I have seen the devastation to ecology wrought by mining. On the other hand, the Lopez family has always supported environmentally friendly and sustainable businesses. The Lopez Group is planting millions of trees to clean the air and improve quality of life of people,” GL explains.
While accidents do happen, GL credits the Lopez family and the Group for taking responsibility, “biting the bullet” and fixing the problem. She says not the same can be said of mining companies.
“There is a UP (University of the Philippines) study that shows that the incidence of poverty is highest in mining communities or those close to mining sites. What happens is that the immediate environment where the workers come from benefits, but all around them, the river is dirty, the air is bad, all the neighboring communities suffer. And when an accident happens, they (mining companies) just up and leave. That is irresponsible,” says GL. Positive spillover effect
She advocates ecotourism to replace mining as livelihood in island ecosystems. Tourism has a positive spillover effect in the agriculture and transportation industries, while protecting the environment.
“The Lopez family is committed to national growth. We will not do anything intentionally bad for the environment. We are very responsible,” GL says.
As for Olives, who finds foundation work to be “very difficult,” he says: “When you’re in the corporate setting and have attained success, you feel you’re invincible. But mistakes do happen, and it’s quite difficult to rebuild what you lost. A career does have its ups and downs. I started foundation work while I was going through a personal journey, and I am fortunate to find meaning in what I’m doing. I don’t think the challenge of corporate life can compare with what I have gained doing what I do now. I can say that I really know now how it is to be of service to the Filipino in a very real, very palpable way. And it’s not just a job I’m assigned to do, it’s beyond the office or the work. It’s the impact you have on people, on the future,” he concludes.